‘Blancanieves’, a must see for any fan of silent cinema and Snow White

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Directed by Pablo Berger
Written by Pablo Berger
2012, Spain

The German tale of Snow White was published by Grimm brothers Jacob and Wilhelm in their Hausmärchen collection in 1812. Considered to be the most famous fairy tale worldwide, Snow White has been adapted to the big screen numerous times by the likes of Walt Disney, Michael Cohn and most recently Tarsem Singh and Rupert Sanders. Every adaptation has featured, respectively, their own variation of the literary source material. Now Spanish filmmaker Pablo Berger has channeled all those energies, and through his own artistic sensibility, he artfully crafts a love letter to Hispanic culture and it’s history. Blancanieves is a beautifully executed vision of the Grimm fairy tale; with the key elements of Snow White all present and accounted for (the poisoned apple, the glass coffin, and the seven dwarfs). Only Berger takes it a step further, adding nods to Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and even Todd Browning’s Freaks – while transporting the action to a romantic vision of 1920s Spain, where a young girl escapes from her wicked stepmother to pursue a career as a world-class matador.

Blancanieves adapts the classic in such that the flamenco and bullfights have a prominent place in the story. By paying tribute to the silent era of European cinema, Berger has crafted one of the year’s most memorable films. And while this black-and-white silent feature has the misfortune of being compared to The Artist, not to mention saddled with a release following the disappointing Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror, fear not: Blancanieves is truly, a remarkable film.

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Director Pablo Berger started off his directorial career with the short Mama in 1988, and later directed the award winning Torremolinos 73 in 2003. Blancanieves, his follow up, was in development for eight years, but the long wait is well worth it. The black-and-white, silent reinterpretation of Snow White topped Spain’s 27th Spanish Academy Goya Awards, winning 10 statues, including best film and original screenplay and became Spain’s official entry for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Director Pablo Berger has taken the story of a young girl and her evil stepmother, and given it a stylish twist. The result is a devilish gothic take on the tale, one which features confident direction, expressive performances, gorgeous visuals and a superb score. Although much of the action is played for dark comedy, Berger manages to incorporate some truly terrifying scenes. All three lead actors, Maribel Verdú, Ángela Molina and Daniel Giménez Cacho, accomplish major success with their expressive performances. The two Carmens, young and old are spectacular and the dwarfs liven up the proceedings. Verdú (Y tu Mamá También and Pan’s Labyrinth) steals the spotlight as the truly malevolent villain and her performance, alone, is worth the price of admission.

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Kiko de la Rica’s photography is stunning and the scenes in the bull fighting arena are extremely well choreographed. The black and white video is accompanied by a sound track devoid of dialogue; spoken lines are expressed using inter-titles. Alfonso de Vilallonga’s lush, vigorous score is some of the best music heard this year, heightening emotion, tension and in addition, the film also features the world class Flamenco guitarist Juan Gómez.

Spanish writer-director Pablo Berger’s reinvention of the Brothers Grimm classic is one of the best Snow White makeovers yet; a lush and ravishing rethinking bolstered by solid performances, a witty script and fantastic set design. A must see for any fan of silent cinema and/or Snow White in general.

- Ricky D

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By Ricky da Conceição

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast and I edit.

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